After writing two novels, I would’ve thought I’d be better at starting a new one.
I’ve learned how to better prepare, though that’s not necessarily a good thing. I’m too cheap to invest in writing software to plan my novel, but I’ve done most of what those programs would do.
I’ve got spreadsheets for character traits, arc, physical description, and wants/motivations/backstories for each of the ten characters who actually speak. I’ve written a synopsis and chapter-by-chapter breakdown, and pre-written a query letter. Most importantly, I’m aware they’re all guidelines.
I’ve read as much as I can get off the internets about the Shaolin Templeand wokou pirate settings. I’d already done a lot of research on the Ming Dynasty for a future book.
I’ve even drawn the major characters, with plenty of (positive) comments from my wife and son, and some constructive criticism from my daughter (“your monk’s bald head is lopsided”).
So, I’m as prepared as I can be. And after all that, I’m still staring at a blank screen when I work up the nerve to open the blank first draft file.
I know the exercises and advice. Write three drafts of your first page/chapter. Or completely stream-of-consciousness launch it without regard to any craft. Hand write. Storyboard. Protected time. Dictate it. Act it out. Etc. Etc.
I’ll be honest. I know why the screen is blank. It’s not lack of confidence in my writing abilities. It’s not life interfering or a lack of time. And it’s not because I’m too busy blogging (OK, sorta, as in right now).
It’s fear, pure and simple. Fear of failure. One hundred or so rejections for two completed novels will do that to you. But the fear isn’t for my writing career. I’m going to keep writing, regardless of rejection.
I’m not writing for myself. I’m not writing for agents or editors or librarians or reviewers or even parents. I’m writing for you, kids, if any of you are reading this. And at some point, some of those people can help me get my story to you. But some of them (including myself) are going to be obstacles to that happening.
I know the characters and the story. I want to share it. It’s alive, in my head. But it’s imprisoned there right now. When it comes out as words, I have to get it right. I have to do it in a way that will convince those people above to share the story with you. I don’t want to fail you, and it’s such a cool story, I don’t want to fail it. Because failing it means failing you.
But I’m optimistic. It’s a good enough tale that it will bust out onto my computer screen at some point. Probably not exactly the way it’s planned out now. But something that’s true to its spirit, sometime soon.
I hope you’ll enjoy it someday.